The Tennessee Titans would love to go through December without worrying about all those other teams vying for that coveted sixth seed in the AFC wildcard race. A wildcard spot is not the only ticket required to board the Postseason Express. If the Titans can come away with the division title, they can let the Colts worry about that sixth seed.
However, getting that ticket punched is much easier said than done.
Just seventeen days after the last contest, the Titans and Colts will square off again on Sunday, this time taking the fight to Indianapolis. The Titans suffered through a second-half collapse as they blew a 17-6 halftime lead in that first game. Following that debacle, all hope of winning the division was lost forever.
Or so it appeared.
Then, in a miraculous turn of events, the Colts went to Arizona and seemingly forgot how to play football. The Arizona Cardinals pounded the Colts to the tune of 40-11. It was the second time in three games the Colts displayed a knack for getting blown out. On November 10th, Indianapolis got smacked 38-8 at home against St. Louis.
The Titans were one good half of football away from making it three straight.
Now, the Titans have a chance to redeem themselves and, in the process, close the gap in the race for the AFC South division title. If the Titans go into Indianapolis and effectively execute the gameplan from the first half of the last meeting, or the gameplan the St. Louis Rams carried out, or the gameplan the Cardinals brilliantly pulled off, the Titans can come away with a huge victory.
Let’s take the optimistic road and assume the Titans take care of business on Sunday. Looking ahead, now, the Colts have road match-ups with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs. Sticking with that optimistic approach, we’ll say the Colts lose on the road in both of those games.
If the Colts handle the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars at home, they’ll finish the season 9-7.
Now, brace yourself, because following this next part requires yet another heavy dose of optimism. After they beat the Colts on Sunday, the Titans will have to travel to the mile-high city to take on the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos. I know, there’s not enough optimism on the planet to simply assume the Titans win that game.
However, the next three games are at home to the Cardinals, on the road against Jacksonville, and, finally, a home rematch with the Houston Texans. The Cardinals game will likely be the toughest of the three, but if the Titans can win that game, they could ride the momentum wave to two more victories.
This would give the Titans a 9-7 record, thus tying the Colts for the AFC South lead. This is where tiebreakers come into play. The head-to-head factor is irrelevant, so the team that would win the AFC South is the one with the better division winning percentage.
Unfortunately, in this scenario, the Colts have a 5-1 division record, while the Titans stand at 3-3. That means that in order for the Titans to win the division, the Colts would also have to lose to either the Texans or the Jaguars.
It seems like a tall task, but that’s what you said about the Colts losing to the Rams by 30 points at Lucas Oil Stadium. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s out of the question for the Jaguars to go into Indianapolis and teach the Colts a lesson. Besides, we’ve been drinking optimism juice all the way through this article, why stop now?
Of course, none of this matters if the Titans can’t win on Sunday. And winning on Sunday will not be easy.
If you haven’t heard this not-so-fun fact by now, allow me to dampen your spirits a bit; Andrew Luck has never lost two games in a row in the NFL. The Colts under Chuck Pagano have been extraordinarily proficient at making adjustments after a loss and preventing a losing streak from developing.
If the Titans do win, however, I can see the Colts spiraling into a chaotic mess that eventually ends with the Titans being crowned the AFC South champions.
All aboard! The Postseason Express will be leaving the station shortly.
If the Titans want to be on that train, they’ll have to prove it on Sunday.